YWCA Announces 2015 Olympia Women & Business of Achievement Honorees

2015 YWCA Women of Achievement


Submitted by YWCA of Olympia

Khurshida Begum
Khurshida Begum

Khurshida Begum: Khurshida is an internationally renowned speaker and human rights advocate for survivors of modern day slavery. It is her goal to provide comprehensive, culturally competent, interactive training sessions through her business Humanity Unlimited.  Her work educates and empowers first responders, community members, educators, and youth on human trafficking and other forms of human exploitation.  According to her nominator, “Khurshida has been victimized by racism and sexism but she is not a victim. She has emerged as a leader who not only refused to be broken by cruelty and violence but who has also devoted her life to ending it everywhere.”

Khurshida’s dramatic story of survival and overcoming has molded her into a powerful, credible leader and speaker.  Her audiences leave having been deeply impacted, changed, and with a new commitment to being compassionate. Khurshida teaches what it means to be a bigger, better human, and shows by her own example what extreme kindness looks like…and what is possible. She deliberately engages with her audiences, sharing her unbelievable experiences for the purpose of changing old thought patterns and habitual behaviors into real individual accountability for humanity.

As a survivor of human trafficking, Khurshida brings insight only gained through first-hand experience. She uses this level of personal understanding when approaching vulnerable situations and is passionate about teaching others how to properly engage with survivors of violence and exploitation through emotional and cultural competency. Her priorities are to share with others her secrets to survival as well as how to identify and empower victims of exploitation and abuse by extending trust and support. It is her goal to educate, inspire and challenge those passionate about eradicating exploitation of human beings and to take positive and effective action.  She is truly a Woman of Achievement whose efforts will allow many more women and children to live their lives with freedom and dignity.

Barbara Clarkson
Barbara Clarkson

Barbara Clarkson (Racial Justice): Barbara Clarkson is a longtime community advocate and Trustee at South Puget Sound Community College and the SPSCC Foundation, passionate about letting us know “It is time for the community to show up” and leading by example. As a charter member of the Thurston Group of Washington Board of Directors, she has helped raise over $6M to support over 850 students with scholarships and financial aid. As one nominator noted “Barbara’s vision is to help children and young adults see beyond their cultural and economic circumstances and learn to look past the perceived limiting factors in their lives and dream by continuing their education, to achieve their dreams”. Barbara “transcends the community of color to all colors of our rainbow community.”

Barbara has always embraced the entire community by forming alliances and partnerships. As a Black person residing in Thurston County, her enjoyment comes from exploring opportunities that have allowed her to continue volunteering and meeting new friends. Barbara is past and/or current volunteer with South Puget Sound Community College, Thurston Group of Washington State, Lacey Sister City with Minsk Mazowiecki, Poland, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at SPSCC, the Black Alliance of Thurston County, Ladies of Elks Lodge #186, Kiwanis Ladies, and the Urban League Branch of Thurston County.

Barbara enjoys traveling, where exposure to different cultures and ways of life truly provide an understanding of the ways of life.  Barbara refuses to let her life be one dimensional. She believes that you cannot break down the racial divide by staying on your side of the fence.  She truly embodies the YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women

Kristin Jacobsen
Kristin Jacobsen

Kristin Jacobsen: When Kristin gave birth to her daughter in the summer of 2009, she was sure that she had made a horrible, selfish mistake. She saw the life she had before growing fainter with each night of no sleep, and with every infant cry, she was unknowingly stepping further and further along the path of postpartum anxiety and depression. Now, with her sweet baby girl in first grade, Kristin remembers all too clearly the shame she felt at being a mom who was not head-over-heels in love with her new role – and who felt like she could not tell anyone how she actually felt.

Now, as a business owner and advocate, Kristin has found her passion in life lies with lifting up moms who are on their own journey of growth, and who may see their own experience as a mom reflected back at them in the story of someone else.  She lives and amplifies the notion that empowered moms lead to healthy families.

She is a volunteer leader for the Climb Out of the Darkness, a fundraiser for the non-profit Postpartum Progress, and has brought the Climb to Olympia ever since its inception three years ago. In 2015, Jessica Juergens joined her as Climb co-leader. Based on the idea that every day with a postpartum mood disorder is the longest day, the Climb is held on or near the longest day of the year, the summer solstice, and represents the fight and the journey back to self that moms go through as they identify and treat postpartum mood disorders. Postpartum Progress is the world’s largest and first patient-focused organization that works to create a safe space where women can recognize when they need help for maternal mental illness, feel safe reaching out for help, are armed with accurate information in order to be their own advocate and know that a community of thousands of other mothers stands behind them and next to them. One nominator noted that, “Kristin’s work gives a voice to an illness which is so often cloaked in shame and isolation, letting us know that we are not alone, it is not our fault, and with the right treatment and support, we can get better.”

Kristin is a Trustee on the Board of Directors for the Child Care Action Council, which serves parents and early learning providers in Thurston, Mason, Grays Harbor, Kitsap, Jefferson and Clallam counties. The Child Care Action Council advocates for children and families at the local, state and federal level, helps create new child care programs to meet needs, offers training programs for child care professionals and educates parents in evaluating the quality of their child’s care.

Kristin owns a local FIT4MOM franchise, bringing Stroller Strides classes to moms in Lacey and DuPont. More than a workout, FIT4MOM classes are about empowering women to build the strength for motherhood. Whether it is about sleeping, teething, feeding, tummy time, learning to walk, doctor’s appointments, funny rashes, tantrums or any of the other new and big questions that moms must face, the FIT4MOM village is that safe space where all moms can find an understanding hug and ears to listen. Kristin’s clients are largely military families, based out of Joint Base Lewis McChord, and she feels particularly strongly that military families need and deserve a supportive village of moms immediately upon their arrival at a new location. The activities offered by FIT4MOM are shown to reduce the length and severity of postpartum mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression, and Kristin sees a strong and important connection between the advocacy and empowerment work of Postpartum Progress and the strength-building and empowerment work of FIT4MOM.

Marsha Tadano Long
Marsha Tadano Long

Marsha Tadano Long: In almost all of her positions with the State of Washington, from Vocational Education Program Specialist to Director of the Department of General Administration, Marsha was the first woman and/or person of color to hold that position.  She was a trailblazer who knew very well that her success as a woman of color would bode well for those women and people of color who came behind her.  “I understood the significance of performing well, and I welcomed the challenge,” she says upon reflection of her 29 years in state government.

Marsha has a long history of service to the community as a volunteer supporting various organizations such as the Japanese American Citizens League, YWCA of Olympia, the Community Foundation of South Puget Sound, the Thurston County Food Bank, and the Hands on Children’s Museum.

With her husband, Merritt D. Long, she founded the Learning Seed Foundation in 2001, currently held at the Community Foundation of South Puget Sound, which awards new and renewable scholarships to graduating high school seniors, primarily students of color.   Most of the students are the first in their families to go to college.  As of 2015, over $278,000 has been awarded to 79 students from Thurston and Pierce counties.  89% are students of color, and 82% are women. On a personal level she provides ongoing support and leadership for students through mentoring, tracking progress, hosting them in her home, and inviting them back to speak about what their education has meant to them.

Marsha’s commitment to supporting young people extends to mentoring young professional women in our community.  Her actions over the years clearly reflect the YWCA’s mission of eliminating racial and gender inequality and advancing the social and economic status of all women and girls.

 Kimberly Perry
Kimberly Perry

2015 Young Woman of Achievement, Kimberly Perry: Kimberly has possessed a love of science and medicine her whole life and is a tremendous example of a girl without limits!

She is currently a junior at Black Hills High School and is enrolled in the Running Start Program at South Puget Sound Community College. Kimberly has maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout her entire academic career while taking on AP and Honors-level classes. She plans on graduating in 2017 with her high school degree and an Associate in Biology, heading to medical school shortly thereafter.

Kimberly is an 8-year member of the Girls Without Limits! Program at the YWCA. She has a passion for STEM and she has served as a GWOL Jr. Counselor for the past three years, dedicating her summers to empowering and encouraging girls who are interested in STEM.  She leads by example and is a wonderful role model for campers.

2015 Business of Achievement: TOGETHER!

Local nonprofit TOGETHER! was selected as the 2015 YWCA of Olympia Business of Achievement for their active support of women and families in the workplace, leadership development and commitment to racial & gender equity.

TOGETHER! offers flexible work schedules to meet the needs of their employees and have a children-at-work program that provides the flexibility required for families with babies, toddlers, adolescents and teens.

Together! logoThey are also dedicated to leadership & career advancement and have created and are implementing a new professional development process for their staff, serving to better support employees’ growth and development. In addition, TOGETHER! aids staff in continuing their education, offering flexibility work schedules and a supportive work environment for employees. Their efforts have directly supported four current staff members to continue college or graduate school coursework, and the agency remains committed to assisting their staff to obtain professional certifications to advance their skill, professional standing and earning potential.

To address economic parity among their staff and organization, TOGETHER! engaged in an intensive assessment of the competitiveness of their staff wages through regional salary study, which resulted in wage increases for a large proportion of staff at multiple levels.

Finally, their Board of Directors and employment recruitment practices engage women and communities of color. While acknowledging that their staff is not as diverse as the community in which they provide services, they are working tirelessly to address race, gender and wage gaps and they continue to engage in conversations about race, disproportionality (inequitable discipline in school), and social justice, incorporating their learning in leadership of the agency.

TOGETHER! walks their talk supporting other local organizations, whether it be to address classism, sexism and racism, women’s health, in-school programming, parent engagement, economic empowerment and collective impact public health initiatives. Their work aligns with the YWCA mission to eliminate racial and gender inequity and advance the social and economic status of all women and girls.

The YWCA of Olympia congratulates TOGETHER!, whose mission is to engage and mobilize families, schools and the community to advance the health, safety and success of local youth.


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